Vegetable prices have spiked as much as 65 percent amid a grueling two-week long heat wave that drove temperatures Wednesday to records in some regions, including areas where recovery and cleanup efforts are underway after devastating floods and landslides.
An agriculture ministry official in Tokyo warned against “pretty severe price moves” for vegetables if predictions of more weeks of hot weather hold up.
“It’s up to the weather how prices will move from here,” the official said. “But the Meteorological Agency has predicted it will remain hot for a few more weeks, and that we will have less rain than the average.”
Temperatures in the cities of Yamaguchi and Akiotacho, Hiroshima Prefecture, reached record highs of 38.8 and 38.6, respectively, on Wednesday afternoon.
In Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, one of the areas hit hardest by this month’s flooding, the mercury reached 38.7, just 0.3 degrees off an all-time high.
As many as 65 people died in the week to July 22, up from 12 the previous week, government figures show.
In Miyoshi, Aichi Prefecture, a prisoner in his forties died of a heat stroke. The room, like most in the prison, had no air-conditioning and the temperature on the floor of his cell was found to be 34 degrees shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Authorities who found him unresponsive sent him to a hospital outside the prison, but he was soon pronounced dead, a prison official said.
“It is truly regrettable that an inmate lost his life,” Kiyoshi Kageyama, head of the prison, said in a statement. “We will do our utmost in maintaining (prisoners’) health, including taking anti-heatstroke steps.”
On the Tokyo stock market, shares in companies expected to benefit from the hot summer, such as ice-cream makers, have risen in recent trade.
Shares in the Imuraya Group, whose subsidiary sells popular vanilla and red-bean ice cream, were up nearly 10 percent on the month, while Ishigaki Foods, which sells barley tea, surged 50 percent over the same period.
In neighboring South Korea, the unremitting heat has killed at least 14 people this year, the Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention said.
The heat wave was at the level of a “special disaster,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday, as electricity use surged and vegetable prices rose.